Michael Burleigh

Tales from Tahrir

Circling the Square: Stories from the Egyptian Revolution

By Wendell Steavenson

Granta Books 384pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Wendell Steavenson’s book begins, unpromisingly, with the false juxtaposition of what she sees as two types of writing about past events: ‘analyzed narrative, neat and ordered’ – she gives as an example the causal history of revolutions she learned aged twelve – and the more chaotic, impressionistic account she ventures herself. ‘We can read words on a page that have been organized for us. But notice the volume of white space around the words. What is hiding in this white space? Half-considered tangents and impulses, groping comprehensions and misapprehensions … so much of history is hiding in the white spaces, dismissed as marginalia.’ Steavenson is also dismissive of explanatory ‘theory’, as well as of clear relations between cause and effect: 

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